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Friday, December 9, 2011
Hello, friends of Central College Abroad! This newsletter, released the second Friday of every month, is intended to keep you in touch with what’s happening with Central College Abroad’s programs across the globe.
The privileges of a college presidency are many. As the president of Central College, they are also global. My reflections on 2011 are highlighted by the incredible opportunity to visit five of our international programs: Merida in the Yucatan region of Mexico; Granada, Spain; Leiden, the Netherlands; Paris, France; and Hangzhou, China. Spending time with students from across the United States and exploring these unique cultural and linguistic settings indeed has been a rare privilege.
As we explored our educational partnerships, residential options, excursions and service-learning opportunities, I came away amazed at both the consistency and diversity of these programs.
The consistency is born of understanding the rich heritage we have in relationships that have endured over decades. Our first programs began in 1965 with a few intrepid faculty members and students forging relationships with partners around the world. This first-hand experience enabled me to discover something important—the depth of those relationships is still vibrant today. I was not only reassured by this reality but also felt a great sense of gratitude for those who had the vision to do something great. The courage of these academic pioneers more than 45 years ago made it possible for me to visit new places and find old friends. So many of our colleagues around the world shared stories of past years and aspirations for the future that spoke of a tradition and innovation in global experiential learning.
Yet with these long histories, I was impressed by the diversity of programs contextualized to each location. Guided by common principles of excellence, our outstanding directors have shaped programs that take advantage of the very best educational opportunities in each location. The experiences are based on a solid foundation and still highly customized to meet the needs of individual students. For some, this was an opportunity of working a unique internship, writing for a regional newspaper or teaching in a local school. For others, it was finding an instructor for music lessons to advance artistic talent. The range of service-learning experiences allows students to be immersed in settings that bring culture and language to life, leaving the tourist behind and favoring a real-world experience of societal challenge and opportunity.
Most rewarding for me was seeing all this through the eyes of students. Through culture shock, linguistic barriers and changing patterns of life, they find a personal transformation. Many commented on how the experience was reshaping their ideas as they encountered the perspectives of others. From sitting in classrooms, cooking classes and cafés to walking in the historic settings of the Alhambra Palace, Versailles and the Great Wall lives are changed by an expanding vision of the world through its culture, history and language. Being there to see this was amazing.
See more photos of the President’s visits on the CCA Facebook page.
Vienna named most livable city
Mercer has named Vienna the most livable city in the world. Vienna ranked first in the quality of living category and has held the top spot for three years in a row. The city beat out 220 other cities to earn this distinction.
Music lessons in Bangor
I started playing the harp my freshman year of college and I love it. People always ask why I decided to learn to play the harp. I’ve always been fascinated by it because the harp is such a beautiful instrument. I was a little hesitant to study abroad because I didn’t want to take a three-month break from practicing. However, when I found out the harp is the national instrument of Wales, it made the decision easy. I knew I could continue taking lessons, and I was excited to learn some traditional Welsh music.
I take lessons at the William Mathias Music Centre from Elinor Bennett, a highly distinguished Welsh harpist. She is one of the foremost performers and music educators in all of Britain and served as the director and organizer of the Wales International Harp Festival. With all this in mind, I admit lessons with her can be a bit intimidating, but I’m learning a lot. As an added bonus, at my lessons I get the chance to practice speaking the Welsh I’ve learned since being in Bangor. However, that usually doesn’t go so well so I think I’ll stick to the playing!
I am renting a harp for the semester from the Music Centre so I can practice in between my weekly lessons. I keep the harp in my dorm room, and luckily my flatmates don’t mind my practicing. On a few occasions they have even convinced me to take the harp into our kitchen and give an impromptu concert. One of my flatmates is very intrigued by the combination of the music he listens to and the strains of harp music he hears from my room. The latest combo: MC Hammer and the harp! There probably isn’t a market for that mix anywhere, but we have fun with it.
I’ve really enjoyed my lessons and time in Wales overall. As the semester comes to a close, I look forward to taking some Welsh music back home with me to continue learning and share with my harp teacher. The program in Wales was a great choice for me, and I’m so grateful that I was able to have this unique and truly Welsh experience.
Learn more about Bangor, Wales.
Global business insight gained through internships
Central College Abroad offers internships that provide cross-cultural interaction and work experience related to a student's academic area of interest. Nate Bleadorn of Drake University couldn’t pass up this résumé building opportunity. Hear from Bleadorn as he describes his internship.
Internship abroad: “The internship was a great opportunity and I worked for a company that sells socks and hosiery. My primary project was to create a promotional piece that is printed in English and Mandarin Chinese. Since I don’t speak Chinese, I was paired with a local Chinese English major and we worked together to determine exactly what message the company was trying to send their audience.”
Cultural understanding: “I feel I have a better understanding of Chinese business practices after learning a little about their culture and background. The most surprising thing I encountered was the great amount of respect not only in the business environment but in the Chinese lifestyle and culture.”
“My favorite part of the experience was developing relationships with the Chinese students who helped with translation. I met some great students and gained so much from speaking with them, learning about their culture and backgrounds and sharing my own views and culture.”
Practical experience: “The biggest thing I will take into my own career is a global attitude toward business practices. I hope to work in management someday and know I need to be conscious of the global economy. My interactions with foreign business professionals will benefit me because I know the world is becoming more global and connected. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with my internship supervisor and discussing best practices in business.”
“The opportunity is unique in many ways, and I think students should step outside their comfort zone and try something new. Overall, it was a great experience, and I highly recommend it.”
Learn more about internships abroad.
State Department discusses career options with Merida students
Paul Nichols (Central College, ’99), Management Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Merida, met with students in November to discuss career opportunities available through the U.S. Department of State. Nichols’s professional journey began during a study abroad experience in Merida in 1999. After graduating from Central, Nichols obtained master's degrees in Latin American studies and public administration at the University of Connecticut.
During his presentation, Nichols advised students to consider a position in the U.S. diplomatic corps because of the great opportunity to represent the U.S. abroad. In addition, Nichols encouraged students to push through the lengthy application process and admitted to taking the Department of State entrance exam three times before gaining a position. Nichols stressed the importance of strong writing skills and suggested speaking skills will follow if a person can express themself clearly and succinctly.
Nichols also discussed the pros and cons of entering graduate school immediately following undergraduate coursework and provided general advice and encouragement to students soon entering the job market.
Learn more about study abroad in Merida, Yucatan.
Homestay Highlight: Granada, Spain
Spanish language acquisition is the goal for many students in Granada and homestays help students reach this goal. Boarding with a host family allows for language and cultural immersion outside the classroom and provides an invaluable element to the student’s linguistic development. Hear from Granada students as they reflect on their homestay experiences.
What were you feeling when you first met your host family?
Describe your host family.
How has living with a host family improved your Spanish language skills?
How has your homestay helped you cope with culture shock and homesickness?
How do you feel about leaving your host family at the end of the semester?
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